The Art Assignment, my favorite educational Youtube channel, posted their last “assignment” video: Whitescapes. Artist Odili Donald Odita asked questions about what whiteness is (in both a color theory way and a construction-of-race way). While I watched the video I took photos of my work space: my walls, white board, plate, and even the Youtube background were all different shades of white (if white even has shades). As you can probably see on this blog, I have been doing a lot of photography for local live music; a crash course in color theory, since performances usually happen in low, artifically colored lights.
I took comparison photos of my white items as they originally appeared (in relative darkness), then with the flash, then with “lights on.” The blue tone of the computer screen stayed the most constant. The flash made my walls look almost rosy, the lamp light turned everything yellow. The blacks of the computer body, board frame, marker writing and tabletop were similarly challenged (but not as much).
The video touched on reality/naturalism a little bit… there are a lot of scary articles around about the effect of light bulbs and computer screens (and even carpented corners) on our psychology. I also keep getting questions about “natural” treatments for serious autoimmune conditions over on the EN advocacy blog (as if vitamin pills grew on trees, or could treat lupus). And I thought about the faux-natural sterile wood, desktop succulent aesthetic. And who profits from fads. It was a good exercise.
Yesterday marked the first “deadline” (I can’t even say it without adding scare quotes) over in our Extra Credit facebook group. We took a vote and decided to do Odili Donald Odita’s Whitescapes assignment, and have been posting what we’ve done over there.
What I especially appreciate about this particular response, is how easily the artist pivots from work/life/youtube, to making art. It’s not a hard and fast dividing line, but a simple “I am watching a video at my desk, and now I’m making art.” This is one reason why I like this particular assignment so much. It’s about art as part of your lived experience, and about the way you look at the world already around you.
The Art Assignment is an educational video series produced in partnership with PBS Digital Studios that focuses on the creative process and the act of making. The series is anchored by episodes that introduce you to emerging and established artists, each of whom devise and share an assignment that relates to their approach to art and serves as an open call for makers across the globe. Celebrating risk-taking in the creative process, The Art Assignment exposes you to alternative approaches to art-making and the most innovative minds in art today.
Seeking to demystify contemporary art for broad audiences, The Art Assignment teaches art history through the lens of the present. Assignment episodes feature animated sequences that bring art history to life and provide context for the assignments, linking each activity to techniques used by artists in the past. The series also includes videos that present the work of artists from the past century in ways that emphasize their relevance today, with videos such as The Case for Mark Rothko and Fierce Women of Art. Other videos explore common questions about and responses to art, including What’s a Curator?, How to Critique, and I Could Do That.
A vibrant community of participants has built up around the series, and thousands of artworks have been made and shared in response to the assignments. Community responses are routinely highlighted through social media and in videos that demonstrate the breadth of work generated by each challenge.
Whether it is used as a classroom tool or experienced at home, The Art Assignment works to demonstrate the diversity, accessibility, and relevance of art being made now and in the recent past.